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[Herald Interview] BAT’s design chief pursues perfection in simplicity

Ken Kim becomes first Korean to oversee design process of all BAT tobacco products

By Lee Yoon-seo

Published : March 28, 2023 - 16:00

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Ken Kim, head of design at BAT Group, speaks to the press during an interview held on Tuesday. (BAT Rothmans) Ken Kim, head of design at BAT Group, speaks to the press during an interview held on Tuesday. (BAT Rothmans)

BAT's design philosophy for heating tobacco products centers around perfecting the user experience and simplicity, rather than complicated designs, says the head of design at global tobacco giant British American Tobacco.

"My priority when designing heating tobacco products was that the item should become one of the three products that consumers can carry with them all the time, along with a phone and wallet," said Ken Kim, the first South Korean to oversee the entire design process of the products sold by BAT, during an interview with reporters on Tuesday.

Kim is in charge of designing BAT's heating tobacco products, with his portfolio including Vuse Epod 2, Glo Pro Slim and most recently, Glo Hyper X2, the newest BAT heating tobacco product to be released in the Korean market.

According to Kim, his conviction to turn BAT's heating tobacco products into an everyday essential for consumers around the world is reflected in the products that he designed.

For the group's newly launched Glo Hyper X2, Kim said that in order to optimize user experience and provide the most comfortable smoking time, his team had paid attention to the littlest details. That included conducting studies on all possible angles, such as how consumers with different finger lengths can comfortably close the product's iris shutter. The shutter covers the hole that cigarette sticks go in, preventing dust and debris from getting inside the device.

In addition, Kim said they also studied the most convenient shape for switches used in iris shutters, in order to make the smoking experience as seamless and comfortable as possible.

"I also held a lot of meetings with the engineers to best design products that have the size and width to fit comfortably in consumers' hands," Kim added.

"As such, we put a lot of effort into researching how to best design our products. We wondered if consumers will actually take notice of such efforts, but concluded that for their satisfaction, this was a duty we must complete," said Kim.

Kim said the end product was thanks to the hard work by staff on his team, four of which who were mostly responsible for the early designs of Glo Hyper X2.

He highlighted the strengths Asian designers have in designing products with simple, refined qualities. Although for Kim, designs cannot be evaluated only in terms of their aesthetic values.

"Designs for a product is only complete when its function part has been fully supplemented," said Kim.